Demand Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault Cases Mishandled by D.C. Police

Target: Washington DC’s Mayor Vincent C. Gray, City Chairman Phil Mendelson and Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier

Goal: To institute an independent oversight operation of the Metropolitan Police Department in order to bring justice to the victims of sexual assault.

The Human Rights Watch organization recently released a report detailing the gross mishandling of sexual assault cases by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in Washington, D.C. During its 22-month investigation, Human Rights Watch found that police often harshly mistreated victims and failed to file incident reports, a routine requirement that allows for investigation of the event. Of the cases the organization reviewed, more than 40 percent—that is over 200 cases—were never documented or adequately investigated by MPD. Although MPD has policies in place that are supposed to enforce proper management of sexual assault cases, it has failed to adhere to such policies and in doing so, failed in its duty to serve and protect.

The report assembled interviews detailing the abhorrent manner with which MPD detectives treated the victims. The quotes illustrate how detectives questioned the legitimacy of the victims’ reports, insinuated that the victims were to blame, and even threatened victims with prosecution. In recounting their interactions with police, the survivors explained how ‘reporting to the police was more traumatizing than the rape itself.’ One officer said that ‘no one was going to believe [the] report and that he didn’t even want to file it.’ There was no shortage of victim blaming in the interviews in addition to the mishandling of reports. One detective was reported saying, ‘You shouldn’t have been outside. This is what happens at two in the morning. What do you expect?’ Another detective responded to the case of a woman who required emergency surgery by stating, ‘Well, she could have fallen on rocks and may not have had panties on. Also what kind of girl is in a room with five guys?’

Members of the Metropolitan Police Department have behaved in an insensitive and appalling manner, further traumatizing the survivors of sexual assault, allowing countless attackers to go free, and discouraging other victims to report their cases. Support the Human Rights Watch call to the mayor of D.C. and City Council to institute an independent oversight operation to bring justice to the victims of sexual assault.

PETITON LETTER:

Dear Mayor Vincent C. Gray, City Chairman Phil Mendelson and Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier,

As you are hopefully aware, the Human Rights Watch organization recently released a report detailing the gross mishandling of sexual assault cases by the Metropolitan Police Department. During its investigation, the organization found that police often harshly mistreated victims, misclassified reports, and even failed to file routine incident reports. Instead of adhering to the department’s policies for managing sexual assault cases, the MPD police have betrayed the trust of the people they serve and failed to protect the citizens of Washington, D.C.

In recounting their interactions with police, the survivors explained how ‘reporting to the police was more traumatizing than the rape itself.’ One officer said that ‘no one was going to believe [the] report and that he didn’t even want to file it.’ Detectives also passed judgment on survivors’ terrible experiences, leading to further traumatization. One detective was reported saying, ‘This is what happens at two in the morning. What do you expect?’ Another detective responded to the case of a woman who required emergency surgery by stating, ‘Well, she could have fallen on rocks and may not have had panties on. Also what kind of girl is in a room with five guys?’ These types of responses, needless to say, are the last thing sexual assault survivors need to hear, especially from police.

Members of the Metropolitan Police Department have behaved in an insensitive and appalling manner, further traumatizing the survivors of sexual assault, allowing countless attackers to go free, and discouraging other victims to report their cases. We are writing to show our support for the recommendations made by the Human Rights Watch and to demand that an independent oversight operation is instituted to bring justice to the victims of sexual assault.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: WeNews via Flickr

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